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Kumbhakarna yawns as he is roused from sleep
Kumbhakarna (Sanskrit: कुम्भकर्ण, lit. pot-eared) is a rakshasa and younger brother of Ravana in the Indian epic Ramayana. Despite his monstrous size and great hunger, he was described to be of good character, though he killed and ate many monks just to show his power.
He was considered so pious, intelligent and brave that Indra was jealous of him. Along with his brothers, Ravana and Vibhishana, he performed a major yajna and penance for Lord Brahma. When the time came for asking a boon (blessing) from Brahma, his tongue was tied by goddess Saraswati (acting on Indra's request). So instead of asking "Indraasana" (seat of Indra), he asked for "Nidraasana" (bed for sleeping). It is also said he intended to ask for Nirdevatvam (annihilation of the Devas) and instead asked for Nidravatvam (sleep). His request was granted. But his brother Ravana asked Brahma to undo this boon as it was in reality a curse. Kumbhakarna slept for six months, and when he awoke, he ate everything in the vicinity, including humans.
During the war, Ravana went into battle and was humiliated by Rama and his army. He decided he needed the help of his brother Kumbhakarna, who was awakened with great difficulty. He woke up only after one thousand elephants walked over him (Rāmāyaṇa 6.48.47).
When he was informed of the circumstances of Ravana's war with Rama, he tried to convince Ravana that what he was doing was wrong. However, he chose to fight in the battle due to his loyalty to his brother. After becoming drunk, Kumbhakarna went into battle. He devastated Rama's army, injured Hanuman and knocked Sugriva unconscious and took him as a prisoner but was killed by Rama. When Ravana heard of his brother's death, he fainted and proclaimed that he is truly doomed.
Kumbhakarna is certainly one of the most interesting characters in the Ramayana epic. Whereas most characters perfectly embody either virtue or vice, Kumbhakarna is a more complex figure. Able to realize the mistakes and wrongdoings of Ravana, even trying to intervene and moderate at certain times, he is unable to openly oppose him, feeling bound by his warrior ethics. Fighting on what he knew to be the wrong side, he is killed by Rama and gets salvation.
Kumbhakarna's character can be compared to Vikarna, the brother of Duryodhana from the Mahabharata, the other great Hindu epic. Both knew that their brothers were wrong, but still fought for them as a mark of duty. The battle between Kumbhakarna and Rama is prominently featured in the Balinese Kecak dance.
According to the Shiva Purana, Kumbhakarna had another son called Bheema who fled to Dakini - on the ranges of the Sahyadri mountains with his mother Karkati. Bheema took an oath to destroy Lord Vishnu and began a campaign of terror based on a boon provided by Lord Brahma. When Bheema defeated a devotee of Lord Shiva and interrupted his penances, Lord Shiva destroyed Bheema and manifested himself at that location in the form of the Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga - one of the 12 jyotirlingas in existence.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kumbhakarna.|
- Sri Lanka, Virtual Library. KUMBHAKARNA
- Kumbhakarna - Ancient Giant Robot in AMP suit
- Pot-Ear's Awakening. From the Ramayana, as translated by Arthur W. Ryder
- From Bheemashankar Temple in Pune